Saturday, January 10, 2009

Question of the Day: 30

At what point is it reasonable to assume that traffic lane that had a problem is fixed up?

Wednesday morning, there was a momentary blip in the traffic route when something happened and ten feet of the right lane needed to be shut down... prompting the dumbest/longest held traffic grudge I've ever been the victim of.

On Thursday, remembering that, I got into the left lane when I turned onto that road, assuming that it hadn't been fixed, and it hadn't, so I was smart. But most of my fellow commuters, people I have to assume take that same road every day, just like I do, had arrogantly/dumbly gotten into the right lane and were tying up traffic again because they had to merge over.

Then, on Friday, I again got into the left lane... and again, traffic was tied up because most of the people were going into the right lane and had to merge over when they got to that spot.

So, now, when I go to work Monday, I'll assume that the right lane is closed down again and get into the left lane. Shouldn't everyone, though, until we all see it's been fixed?

Friday, January 09, 2009

The star-spangled birthday? 83 down, 9,265 to go.

I don't make a big deal out of my birthday, but luckily for me, Sweetie does. So far today, she has

-- made sure that I had cold Rocky Rococo's sausage & onion pizza and breadsticks -- my favorite of all time -- in my lunch, doing that as a surprise, and

-- made homemade cupcakes with gourmet peanut butter frosting that for some reason includes kosher salt but who am I to question because it's delicious, and

-- had a set of candy and pretzels and cookies delivered to me from, for some reason, San Diego.

And I haven't even gone home to get my presents and eat all the Ben & Jerry's yet.

Also, here's a little thought for you: If you sing "Happy Birthday" to the tune of "The Star Spangled Banner," it works out pretty well.

Song 83: "Sunday (The Day Before My Birthday") by Moby:

You know the drill: Song 82 here.

And part four of "Ninety-Four" was posted today; that's here.

Ninety-Four: Part Four: Wherein I muse about memory and turning forty and also, eventually, introduce you to Rip.

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. Once a week, I'll recap that year. This is part four; find the table of contents here.

As I write this, I have just turned forty, more or less. Some people like to know the exact time of the day they were born, counting how old they are from, say, two p.m. I don’t do that, because it’s difficult to remember the exact moment of my birth. I’m sure Mom told me, sometime, when I was born, but I haven’t stored that information anywhere where I can access it easily. It may be true that everything we ever experience is stored somewhere in our minds – I believe it – but that’s only valuable to know, or valuable in and of itself, if I can then get to that information and get to it when I need it, like on my actual birthday. What good is having information in my head if I can’t remember it now, when I’m talking about figuring out the exact moment I turn forty, and instead get that information at some unknown time in the future, driving along listening to a song and suddenly it will pop into my head – 6:17 a.m.—but I won’t, any longer, remember why it was I was trying to remember when I was born.

Figuring out the exact moment when I was born might not be easy, either, because the time reported may not be accurate. I know that because of the birth of our twins, Mr F and Mr Bunches. They were born 10 minutes apart. I know they were born ten minutes apart, because I was there, in the delivery room, watching the splendidly horrifying exciting trauma of their birth and scarcely breathing, and I know that there was an incredible length of time between when Mr F came out and Mr Bunches came out, a length of time that the resident who had the job of standing near me and observing told me was ten minutes, ten minutes that I verified because I recall the doctor or a nurse or someone calling out the times that they were born. But on their birth certificates, the ten minute difference is not reflected. The hospital got the time of Mr Bunches’ birth wrong, and we didn’t correct it.

That and when people figure out exactly how old they are, they never count in leap years and leap hours and leap seconds. I sat down yesterday and figured out that at midnight, or 12:00:01, on January 9, 2009, my 40th birthday, I would be 1,261,440,000 seconds old… but that figure doesn’t take into account leap years, with their extra day. There’ve been 8 leap years in my life time so far, so that adds 86,400 seconds alone. Having figured that out, I am 86,400 seconds older, instantaneously, than I was a few moments ago when I did the first calculation. And I’m actually even older, because of leap hours and leap seconds.

But I am also younger, because while I have been alive forty years now, I do not remember forty years. If I add up all of my memories and thoughts right now, I could maybe come up with 15 or 16 years of memories, figuring that by trying to imagine them in serial format, one after the other after the other with no intervening gaps, taking my first and earliest memory – standing on a chair in our kitchen showing my Dad the tiny die-cast model airplane I’d bought at Drew’s with my allowance that day – and putting it first, and then taking the very next memory I can think of, that of sitting in the stands at Nixon Park near the big baseball field, watching my older brother Bill take part in the “Raindrops” baseball league All-Star game, him getting to play under the lights in front of a crowd, while I sat in the stands and wondered if I would ever play in an All-Star game (not yet, not yet even though I’m forty) and also tried out various methods of folding my hands in my lap, seeing which looked more manly and tough, and so on, one after the other: high school graduation in my red robe followed by the time I went rollerblading on the college campus at night on to the morning of my wedding day… and all the way up to today, it would fill maybe 15 or 16 years of time, so I am younger than my age, which is a pleasant way of looking at an unpleasant idea, the unpleasant idea being that I cannot remember even one-half of the things I’ve done in my life.

Which is all a way of leading into this: I don’t remember if I went to Washington, D.C., in 1994, before or after my birthday. I think, now, looking back, that it was before my birthday, that I was in Washington D.C. before I turned twenty-five, but my memory is suspect, as you can see, and as I know myself, and memory that centers on my birthday is more suspect than usual, because I have never made a big deal of my birthday. My birthday, falling as it does a little more than two weeks after Christmas, has always gotten lost in the shuffle. It is too close to Christmas to make people want to celebrate it comfortably. They are celebrated-out. They have drunk egg nog and shopped and sang and exchanged presents and decorated and gotten together and updated each other on their lives and exclaimed about how the others look and received exclamations about how they look and by the time January 9 rolls around, they are tired and looking for excuses to not go outside tonight and take down the Christmas decorations on the house, and they do not want to wrap a present, eat a cake, or sing.

Nor do I. I’ve never liked celebrating my birthday, and have never minded when people do not celebrate it with me or for me. Why should I celebrate my birthday? I didn’t do anything worth remarking about on that day. So when people have decided that the weather is too bad to come over on my birthday, leaving me to eat my share of the lasagna and birthday cake I prepared myself for myself and others and to watch TV while I do that, I’m okay with that. When people forget to get me a present, and give me a handwritten card with a “Jawa” action figure taped to it, a “Jawa” Star Wars Action Figure that until earlier that evening they had been the owner of, but then they realized that they had not gotten me anything for my birthday and so they made up a card and taped the Jawa to it and gave it to me while tearfully apologizing for forgetting my birthday, as my brother Matt did one year when I was about 10 – there’s that shakiness of memory again – I don’t mind, and I appreciate the gesture, and I still appreciate it even when a few months later on the Jawa’s ownership is reclaimed by default and I no longer have it.

My birthdays all blend together into days that I and others do not really want to make a big deal of, mostly, and so it doesn’t surprise me, fifteen years later, that I can’t recall if I was in Washington, D.C., on my birthday, if I arrived there before or after my twenty-fifth birthday. Instead, what I recall is meeting my roommate, Rip.

Rip was his nickname. Randolph was his real name. I met Rip when I went up to my dorm room and he was either there already or he arrived shortly thereafter. Rip was one of the first people to do something that I found more and more prevalent among my social contacts as life went on, and what Rip did then, and what more people do more and more now, is this: They talk about things as though I know everything about those things that they do.

I’ve noticed this a lot more lately, but I first noticed it with Rip as he introduced himself and then began talking about his life. It works like this: people will talk to me and make a comment in an offhanded manner which comment suggests that I know what the commenter knows, too – an inside joke or a reference to another person or event or time, a reference that is made in shorthand as though the speaker believes, for some reason, that I am “in” on the reference or joke even though I’m not.

If you’ve ever been sitting in a group of people that you have recently joined,you know the feeling I’m discussing, because at some point that group of people will make a cryptic reference and they will all laugh or chuckle or shake their heads or do something, a reaction caused by their knowledge of what the word “waterfall” means to them, or how the nachos tasted that other time, knowledge that you do not have. That situation is bearable. I can handle that.

What I have difficulty handling, and what worries me, is when people behave as though I do know about the waterfall, as though I have tasted those other nachos, even though I haven’t. More and more in my life, people do this to me, and it is starting to frighten me. I will be talking to someone in my office, and they will say something like “Just like Sullivan,” and shake their heads. I am left to try to interpret their head shake – is it rueful? Humorous? Sad?—and to try to figure out who is Sullivan? And also to try to determine who or what is being just like Sullivan? And ultimately, I am left to try to mimic, exactly, their headshake and say something like “Yes, just like Sullivan.”

That worries me, concerns me, because I don’t know if I once knew who Sullivan was and what Sullivan had done that would make people shake their heads to learn that someone or something else was just like Sullivan, if I once knew that but have now forgotten it or misplaced it the way I forgot or misplaced much of my life, the way I cannot now remember whether the list of resolutions I made one year, resolutions that included “Go skydiving” and “Do the Polar Bear Jump,” resolutions which I completed in their entirety, were on a list captioned “Twenty-five things to do before I am twenty-six,” or on a list captioned, instead, “Twenty-five things to do before I am twenty-five. I’m sure, now, looking back, that there were twenty-five things to do (or am I?) but I’m not sure if I was going to do those twenty-five things before I turned twenty-five, or before I turned twenty-six.

I do know that I did them. But I worry that I cannot remember things like that and I worry that I am more and more misplacing memories and losing them, that as my life gets longer it is getting shorter because although I am experiencing things, I cannot remember them, so the more I do the less I remember and when I am eighty years old, I worry, I will only remember about ten years of my life, so what good will it do me to live eight decades if I remember living only one?

Those are the kinds of thoughts that are prompted by turning forty one day, and trying on that day, to remember whether I was already twenty-five when I met Rip or whether I had yet to turn twenty-five when I first met Rip, whether I was maybe only twenty-four when Rip first introduced himself to me by telling me that he was from New Hampshire, that he was going to be interning with New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg that semester, that he was majoring in rhetoric, and that he felt sure that Dragon would do something or other upon learning what it was he was doing or going to do in Washington, D.C.

Facing that verbal onslaught – to be expected from someone who majored in rhetoric, I guess – all I could say was “Who’s Dragon?” and wonder whether it was good, or bad, to be rooming with someone who knew someone named “Dragon.”

Question of the Day: 29

How essential is what you do?

Imagine that what you do for a living ceased to exist entirely, right this moment. Nobody anywhere in the entire world any longer does what you do for a living, right now. Would the world be different in any significant manner? Or would it look and act a lot like the world does now?

If my job -- lawyer-- stopped existing, I don't think the world would really be any different. Don't go spreading this around, but there's really not any need for people to help other people resolve their disputes. People will always have disputes, and will always need a way to resolve them. But they don't need, period, a whole class of people to take charge in resolving those disputes for them. Lawyers exist, I think, because laws exist, and the more complex the laws, the more people think that they need lawyers, to navigate the hearsays and inclusius unos and all that. But if lawyers didn't exist, maybe the laws would end up being simpler...

On the other hand, you know who's essential? Bakers.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Now, that's a celebration! 82 down, 9,266 to go

It's 4:30 p.m. on January 8, 2009, which means that in 7 1/2 hours, I will be:

14,600 days old.
350,400 hours old.
21,024.000 minutes old, and

1,261,440,000 seconds old.

Although with that leap second they threw in there at the end of 2008, I guess I'll actually be 1,251,440,001 seconds old.

Unless there've been other leap seconds in my life.

Who knows how old I actually am?

Regardless, I plan on celebrating with four different kinds of Ben & Jerry's.

Song 82: The Obvious Child, by Paul Simon:

Down... to go: All the songs on my iPod. And stuff I think. Here's song 81.

Question of the Day, 28:

Did we really need seedless cucumbers?

Yes, I know, I'm in favor of Prebuttered Frozen Toast [NOW MICROWAVEABLE!], but that's strictly a time-saver in this busy modern world. Time saving is important. Convenience, on the other hand, may be getting a little too dominant in our lives, because seedless cucumbers, which I saw recently in the store, seem a whole different ball of monkeys from Prebuttered Frozen Toast.

I mean, how much more convenient should life be, that we can't eat a cucumber with seeds? Who has ever been bothered by the seeds in a cucumber? Or am I just weird and all along I shouldn't have been eating the seeds? Is there something wrong with cucumbers' seeds? Nobody tells me anything.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Whale-y Mood: 81 down, 9,267 to go.

Noah and the Whale's song "Jocasta" came on my iPod on the drive in this morning, putting me in a good mood and also putting me in a Noah and the Whale-y mood. So I've been listening to Noah and the Whale all day, and also, all day long, I've been wondering who Jocasta was, and why that name rings a bell.

So I asked Some Guy At Work and he thought it rang a bell, too, and he's the kind of guy who would know, because he's the kind of guy who can point out that the "Inside the Actor's Studio" host's wife is also the oriental woman on the original "Clue" box, so he knows things like that and also he knows actual book-learning things, but he wasn't able to help me.

And I wasn't able to ask Lou, because Lou wasn't around. Lou might know who "Jocasta" was because Lou is the kind of guy who, when asked whether Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman ever were in a movie together, knows that Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman were in Dick Tracy together -- just knows that, right off the top of his head, something even Sweetie didn't know, and Sweetie knows everything about movies.

So both Some Guy At Work and Lou either let me down and/or were unavailable today and I couldn't take it any longer so while listening to Noah and the Whale all day I also looked up "Jocasta" and found out that she was Oedipus' mother and also possibly related to the Sphinx.

Which maybe means that the song should not have cheered me up, after all. But it's so bouncy!

Song 81 is a Noah and the Whale song, too. It's "2 Atoms in A Molecule:

Down... to go: With all these songs on my iPod, and all these thoughts in my head, you can see why I never get any work done. Song 80 here, and just for the heck of it, here's a link to "Jocasta" when I put it up as song 72.

I'm a silver-lining-in-gray-clouds kind of guy, I guess.

One of the unmentioned good parts to a recession and market shake-out like we're going through right now is that there can be opportunities there, too.

For example, the mortgage crisis will help purge the market of the mortgage brokers and mortgage bankers that have not been good at business, forcing the bad businesses to leave and slowing down the growth of the good businesses. Which means that when the market starts to pick up again, there will be people looking for houses, and trying to qualify for mortgages -- and not enough banks and brokers to go around.

Which makes this a good time to get going via mortgage net branching. Mortgage net branching allows a loan originator or broker with experience to start up their own business and be their own boss -- backed by the experience and economic clout of a 1st Metropolitan mortgage as a partner.

I've been reading 1st Met's site today (I happened on it in the course of looking up some actual work stuff) (you can find it at, or find information about them at and their business plan looks like it makes sense: the site explains how 1st Met can work for you in setting up a business using mortgage net branching, and has valuable information and news tips that can keep you informed about the business.

You can even, on the site, see if you qualify to become partners in 1st Met's business today.

So the recession doesn't mean bad news for everyone forever; if you're in the mortgage broker, loan originator, or mortgage banking fields, a stop by 1st Met's site could be the first step into building your own business and poising yourself to take advantage of the recovery.

The Demarcation of Breakfast Foods.

Despite the fact that we go to the grocery store, on average, about every 17 minutes, my breakfast this morning was a stale Reese's peanut butter cup eaten at about 10:15 a.m.

I really had no choice but to eat that for breakfast, as all my other options were unpalatable. It's grocery shopping day -- one of them -- and that has left us at the end of the grocery chain with not much to eat for breakfast.

That combined with my morning routine, led me onto the Peanut Butter cup path. My morning routine rarely leaves me enough time to actually eat anything but the Pocket Breakfast. I can't get any writing done at night because at night, the Babies! are awake and I get too distracted playing the various games we like to play, like last night when we played, in the course of twenty minutes, Rrrowr Monster and SuperSpinning and then I had to watch the Slide Exhibition put on my Mr F, a Slide Exhibition that accidentally featured a very dangerous slide stunt that Mr F bravely did not let dissuade him from further sliding.

The Slide Exhibition is the newest version of Sliding. For a while there, Mr F and Mr Bunches would use their slide in their playroom while Sweetie and I watched. They they liked it while I hummed songs for them while they sang -- their favorite being that very dramatic theme to "Last of the Mohicans," so that for a few minutes each day I would sit and watch them slide while humming that theme song, interrupting my humming only to clap or cheer when they went down the slide.

They got tired of that, now -- amazingly -- and have progressed to the newest, the Slide Exhibition. The Slide Exhibition takes place when Mr F climbs to the top of the ladder on the Green Slide, and waits until I start the cheer. I then have to start going aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh louder and louder and just as I hit a fever pitch, he'll slide down and I have to then change that chant into a cheer, so it's:

[Climb the ladder] aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh [stand at the top of the ladder ] AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH [Slide down] AAAH WOW! (and I clap.)

That's not all that interesting for me, so for a while, I'd rotate the chants by vowel:




and so on. But Mr F doesn't care what I chant; the important thing is that I do chant, and I do cheer, and he gets more excited and more daring with each one, culminating, last night, in his climbing the ladder quickly and practically jumping onto the Green Slide but doing that so hastily that his left leg was over the edge of the slide, and as he went down his leg clipped the doorway and he spun like a pinwheel and landed on his back headfirst.

To which I said: aaaaaaaaWOW! and clapped, and he started up the slide again but I had to take a break because Mr Bunches wanted to play Rrrowr Monster and he's allowed at least a few minutes of that each night, until he gets tired of it or throws up from excitement, whichever comes first.

So with all that going on, I don't get much of a chance to do anything like writing at night, and by the time nine p.m. rolls around and the Babies! are in bed, I'm too tired and hoarse to do much other than go to bed myself and maybe sometimes read a few pages before I doze off.

Instead, I decided that every morning, I was going to get up at 6 a.m. and do some writing before I get the Babies! up at 7 and then get ready for work, and I mostly do get up at 6 a.m. For a while there I was getting up at 6 a.m. and then getting out of bed at 6:30 a.m., because at first (I told myself) I was laying in bed just to hear the weather report, and then (I told myself) I was laying in bed to hear the weather report and also the "Tech News" because the "Tech News" might apply to me in the sense that I use technology and it is about technology, and then (I told myself) I was laying in bed to hear the weather and the "Tech News" and the headlines and finally I decided that there was no point in getting up at 6 a.m. if I wasn't going to go downstairs until 6:30 a.m. so I set my alarm for ten minutes to six instead, and now I lie there for ten minutes listening to the news and get up at six.

I'd like to be one of those people who just hops right out of bed and begins on their day, but there are very few pleasures available which can match three of the top feelings in my world. Those feelings are:

1. The feeling when I first lie down in bed at night and stretch out and imagine that I'm going to watch a TV show or read a book or magazine. That feeling generally lasts about three minutes until I fall asleep before even reaching for the book or magazine. (I spend those three minutes haranguing Sweetie about why we are watching Criminal Intent (aka "Law and Dharma") again.

2. The feeling of lying in bed, warm and toasty, for just a few minutes more in the morning. During that time, I pretend that my annual resolution has been fulfilled and I don't have to get up and go to the office, and also that just outside my bedroom window are palm trees and a view of the ocean surf.

But both of those pale in comparison to this one:

3. The feeling of waking up in the middle of the night and thinking that it's time to get up and go to work but then looking at the clock and realizing it's only midnight and I have six hours left before I have to wake up to lie in bed for a few minutes more.

I do, now, get up about 6 a.m. and head downstairs, where my morning ritual is to first feed Stormy, Sweetie's cat, who has to be fed first or she pouts and growls and goes to get Sweetie, who will then pout and growl, too. Stormy has to be fed specific kinds of food from specific kinds of cans of food on specific plates, and also has to be left alone while she eats or she'll deliberately get sick. So I have to feed Stormy and then quickly get my coffee and get out of the kitchen to avoid upsetting Stormy's delicate sensibilities.

Then I get the computer going and do a little writing. By "writing," I mean mostly "trying to get the computer to do something that it doesn't want to do," like, say, having the printer actually print paper. Yesterday was a good example of that. I had to print about 50 pages to send off in the mail. But our printer won't hold more than about 15 pages at a time; if I try to put more than fifteen pages into the printer, it will jam up and/or pull all the pages through at once, printing a tiny bit of the job on each page... thereby ruining all of the pages. And jamming up, to boot.

(I sound like I'm griping a lot about this, so let me note that on the Great Ranking Of Problems, "Printer not holding a lot of paper at once" is pretty far down the list. I'll put it at 721. So my life is not so bad.)

So I have to set it to print and then sit by the printer watching the paper print and reloading the paper periodically, and even that doesn't keep things from going wrong with the printer, like they did yesterday when something jammed anyway, and I had to try to read, in the dim 6 a.m. living room light, the tiny LED screen that told me to press "Menu," so I pressed "Menu," but then I couldn't read what the screen said and had to get up and turn on the other light, which didn't help because the other light was behind me. I moved to the back of the printer, and then tried to turn the printer to face the light, only to realize that the light was now glaring off the tiny LED screen and I couldn't read anything, so I just tried to turn the power off on the printer and restart the whole thing. But that didn't work, so I had to unplug it completely, wait a few seconds, and then plug it back in. When I looked at the tiny LED screen, it said "Press Menu," and I tried to calm myself down by pressing "Menu" and then going to get more coffee, earning me a reproachful look from Stormy. I came back out and saw that the printer wasn't doing anything, and I thought briefly about whether it would make sense to simply get rid of this printer, preferably by throwing it out the window on my drive to work. But I managed to read the LED screen again and it said "Load paper."

I loaded more paper, keeping it to about 10 sheets, and as I was doing that, I noticed that the clean white paper I'd picked off of the stack of clean white paper that I had ready to print my writing on was not, in fact, clean white paper. The clean white paper instead was clean and white on only one side. On the other side, many of the sheets I'd grabbed had typing on them, typing that as I scanned it looked like the kind of typing that would be a rough draft of Middle's essays from before Christmas break.

That worried me and created more work, and to understand why, you'd have to know that when I was 21, I worked in a gas station. Working in a gas station can teach a lot about life, and people, and people's lives. Actually, no, it can't. What it can teach is the same lessons over and over. Those lessons are:

1. Everyone thinks of the same comment or joke under the same circumstances. Seriously. You may think that you are a unique or creative individual, like I think I am, but you are not. We are people and being people means that we all think, more or less, the same exact thing. And I will prove it to you. Suppose you run into me at a social function, and I'm talking to a short white guy. (You'll see why he's got to be white in a minute.) I introduce you to him and say "This is my coworker, Barack Obama."

102 times out of 100, you or I or that person whose phone call you are trying to avoid or your mother or anyone who hears that comment will say something to the effect of "not THE Barack Obama," and only then will you realize that you are likely the 1,000,000th person to say that to this Barack Obama. I know that not only because I did it -- I worked with a lawyer named "Steve Young," a name shared by a quarterback at the time, and I said "Not THE Steve Young," and he didn't even try to pretend it was funny -- but because everyone does it, a fact you learn if you work third shift at a gas station, when you're the only one there and everyone who comes in the door says more or less the same thing when they come through the door. What was fascinating was that the "same thing" would change, each night, but each night everyone said the same thing. Some nights, everyone who came in would say "Sure is quiet. Bet you don't get much business at night. Maybe they should just let you go home and sleep, ha!" and I didn't, each night, point out that all of the people who'd come in had said that -- and that because the speaker was there, I had to be there. Other nights, it would be the cold, or the bars closing, or something. But whatever the topic, everyone said it.

The other thing that I learned at the gas station was this:

2. Never take the top paper on a stack. I've followed this rule for nearly 20 years, all because I worked at a gas station. People come into a gas station, some of them, and pick up the paper, and read it, or thumb through it, or look at the headlines, or do something with it. I never understood it. These guys -- they were almost always men -- would pump gas and then come in and go pour a cup of coffee and then go to the newspaper rack and pick up a paper and pull out the sports section and look at it while sipping their coffee and then would flop it back down and would come up and pay for their gas and their Winstons and beef jerky.

So as a side note, you people who feel perfectly comfortable going into Barnes & Noble, taking a book sitting in one of their chairs and reading it, you are a pack of Winstons and a beef jerky stick away from being One Of Those Guys. You're on the same branch of the human family tree. And as a second side note, come on, really? Just go to the library, if you want to read a book but not pay for it. Honestly.

What that means, that action by Winston & Jerky Guy and all the people like him, is that the top paper on a stack of papers has always been thumbed through and picked over and read and had sections moved or taken out, and the coupons torn out, and has beef jerky stains on it. (I know, he bought the beef jerky after reading the paper, but don't you kind of think he bought that beef jerky because he'd eaten his stash already that morning and needed to replenish it?) So if you take the top paper on the stack, you're buying a wrinkled, beef jerkied newspaper.

Because of that, I never take the top of any stack, because I assume Winston & Jerky Guy (or his brethren, "Barnes & Noble Reader" or "Grocery Store Picker Upper & Putter Downer") has been there ahead of me and has in some way altered or poisoned or jerkied whatever it is I'm picking up. I don't take the top newspaper. I don't take the front book on the shelf. I don't select the first package of frozen bagels. I fool those people and take one lower down.

All of which means that when I grabbed my clean white paper to print on yesterday, I grabbed it from the middle of the stack, because Winston & Jerky might have been in our house, for all I know. Which means that the paper that Middle had used printing drafts of her essay had not been thrown away, had not been set carefully aside, had not been put on the desk, but instead, had been inserted into the middle of the stack of printing paper.

I sat there, looking at the 20 or so pages I'd already printed, and the pages waiting to be printed, and the paper in my hand with the draft of an essay about cell biology or something, and all I could think of was Isn't it WAY more work to take the used paper and put it neatly into the middle of the stack of paper, way more work than ANYTHING ELSE YOU COULD POSSIBLY DO WITH THAT PAPER? If I assume that she didn't want to throw the paper away, for whatever reasons (laziness? environmental concerns?) wouldn't it have been easier to just put it on top of the stack where I would avoid it? How could it end up in the stack?

I didn't get much else done yesterday morning, which put me then a little more behind today which meant that I was a little more pressed for time than I usually am in the morning, so that when I came downstairs at 7:50 to leave for work, I was definitely going to need a Pocket Breakfast.

But we had no Pocket Breakfasts. We had no Pop Tarts, Toaster Strudels, French Toast Sticks, or anything else that could be quickly toasted or simply eaten for breakfast, because this is grocery shopping day (one of them.) Granted, we had food. We had cereal and milk and things to make sandwiches with, and we have bread and a toaster and butter and peanut butter and even Goober, but we had nothing that qualified as breakfast. I can't simply grab a handful of crackers, or a "Drumstick Ice Cream Cone" and call it breakfast.

And toast is out of the question. I was already feeling pressed for time, and I didn't have time to both heat up the bread and butter it, plus toast doesn't make a good pocket breakfast because th butter soaks into the paper towel I wrap it in so that it can be carried to the car in my pocket, and then the paper towel sticks to the toast and I feel like I'm eating paper for breakfast, so if I have toast I not only have to toast it and butter it -- someone should seriously consider selling frozen, pre-buttered toast that could just be popped into a toaster and then eaten, and in a world where there's McGriddles and hot dog "singles," we're probably not far off from the day that there exists "Toaster Ready Frozen Toast [Now Pre-buttered!]" and we're not far off from the day that I will buy that and make it and say "This is pretty good. I mean, it's not as good as REAL toast, but it's not bad."-- not only would I have to toast and butter the bread, but I would then have to carry it to the car, and I'm already carrying to the car the mail to take out, my lunch, my notebook of ideas, and my iPod and also my coffee.

So I didn't take a pocket breakfast, and I figured I could eat something from the stash in my drawer at work. I have a stash of Extra Food in my desk, the Extra Food that Sweetie puts in my lunch but which I don't eat because it violates the Three Courses Rule, so I save it for just such an emergency, and luckily for me, I had some Pop-Tarts in there, all set to be my breakfast, but then I couldn't have one, because I had nothing to drink.

Pop-Tarts are dry. Really dry. They need to be washed down with something, and all I had available was our office coffee, about which the less said, the better. Our office coffee is terrible and I only drink it because it's a free source of caffeine. It is oily and bitter and coats my mouth with oily coffee residue, a coating that I can feel and that I know (because Sweetie tells me so) that others can smell, so the less coffee I drink at the office, the better off I, and everyone who runs into me during the day, is.

Drinking the office coffee with a Pop-Tart is out of the question; mixing those flavors would probably put me off Pop-Tarts faster and more permanently than the Great Hamburger Helper Disaster (a story for another day) put me off Hamburger Helper... and wrecked a very good briefcase.

I had a soda with me, but that soda needed to be saved for lunch, which left, as Sweetie pointed out, water.

I can't drink water with a meal. That's just lame. Water is to be drunk when working out, or when waiting for your appetizers to arrive at Denny's. Water isn't a drink to be had with a meal.

With no drink option, the Pop-Tart was out as a potential breakfast, which left only microwave popcorn or a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup that probably was packed into a lunch around Halloween and then put into the Extra Food drawer.

I don't have to explain why a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup is more acceptable as a breakfast food than, say a handful of the red licorice that we have in the cupboard where the Pop Tarts used to be but weren't this morning, because I didn't immediately eat the Peanut Butter Cup for breakfast. I opted, faced with no good solution, to simply skip breakfast today. I reasoned that it would not kill me to not eat breakfast one day out of the week, that it would probably help me lose a little weight and get more in shape, and that therefore today, I would not eat breakfast but I'd simply wait until lunch.

I then congratulated myself on both my willpower and my ability to maintain a strict demarcation of what IS acceptable for breakfast (toaster-cooked frozen cinnamon rolls) and what is NOT acceptable for breakfast (leftover Halloween treats). But I was a little early on that, because by ten a.m. I was famished and was not going to make it even to eleven, which is when I usually break down and eat my lunch, so I caved and ate the Reese's for breakfast.

Although I suppose by then, it was brunch. Which makes it okay.

Important Mug

Question of the Day: 27

Was I wrong?

This morning, for no apparent reason, the right lane on the road I take to work was closed for about 10 feet, making everyone (including me) in the right lane move into the left. When I got to my turn to move into the right lane, I started to edge in front of the car that was just behind me. She, then, started to edge forward to keep me from edging in. So I simply edged more and got in front of her by default, and forgot all about it.

But about two miles later, that woman, who had apparently been behind me the whole time even though the road opened up just after that, pulled along side me and waved her arms to get my attention and then gave me a mean look, shook her head, and then turned right.

And all I could think was man, you really carried that grudge a long time.

Hopefully, we will progress to a point with the Babies! where not all of our furniture becomes fixtures.

After taking down the Christmas tree, I rearranged the living room to give us a fresh new start in that room. I pushed the piano over to the opposite corner, and angled it out. I moved the sectional couch to the corner where the piano had been, so the room was more open. I shifted the cat tree over and put the rocker into the time-out corner.

I did not move the grandfather clock, for two reasons. First, it doesn't work. One of the weights fell off and I have to get it fixed and fixing the clock is way, way low on the list of priorities. Second, and more important, the clock is bolted to the wall to keep the Babies! from pulling it over onto themselves. Until we get them Civilized, that's a necessary step.

I'm thinking, though, that I'm not going to fix the old grandfather clock, a clock the in-laws gave us and which has served pretty well, overall, but has never really seemed like it fit in, probably because we didn't pick it ourselves, and also because it's just... you know, a typical grandfather clock.

Instead of repairing that one, I'm inclined more to pick up a new grandfather clock, one more like this:

That's the Howard Miller "Cherish" Grandfather clock from, which is the best possible place to shop for grandfather clocks because they've got every kind of clock you can imagine, and they're all marked down, all the time, from the high prices that grandfather clocks usually go for to something that even I can afford. (They've even got a blog with tips and stories about grandfather clocks, things that I could use to impress/bore the kids, like the different names that grandfather clocks have had depending on where you live.)

I like the "Cherish" because it allows the clock to not only have that grandfather-clock quality but also to highlight other things -- pictures and knickknacks and the like, so that the clock becomes more like a part of the house, instead of just some piece of furniture that nobody's supposed to ever look at or touch.

I mean, if it's going to be bolted to a wall, it should be treated like a member of the family, shouldn't it?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Question of the Day: 26.

I call this The Donny Osmond Dilemma:

Would you accept payment of enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life if doing so meant that you would never, ever, ever be taken seriously in your chosen field again?

Say you're a writer: you'll get paid, say, $20 million but the moment you cash that check, nobody will ever take you seriously as a writer again. Or you're a singer, or a doctor, or oceanographer... whatever it is, you'll be comfortable, never worry about money, but everybody will simply shake their heads when they hear about you and maybe even chuckle.

Date Quiz:

Enemies List: 3

1. People who honk their horn.
2. Pepperoni pizza.
3. The 2008 Detroit Lions.

Every year, I've watched and waited for a football team to lose all 16 games in a single season, something that had never happened. I loved watching teams lose and lose and lose and then pull out some meaningless victory each year to go 1-15, or 2-14, and I loved, too, that the fact that nobody had ever done it meant that 0-for-Everything was the greatest, most unachievable record in sports, a record that humans might never set.

Then, this year, Detroit went and did it and just sucked all the joy out of 0-for-Everything. Once it's been done, it's not that cool to do it anymore. It's kind of like the first guy to climb Mount Everest; after that, everyone else who climbs it just gets met with "So what? We know it can be done." Or like a McDonald's Arctic Orange shake: The anticipation is much better than the reality.

Come on, in-laws!

We take a "big" vacation about every other year -- go out of state and spend a week or so seeing the sites of some city. We do it every other year because it takes a while to save up the money and to find something that we all agree on. Since we went to Florida in 2008, we'd usually wait until 2010 to do another big vacation.

But I'm thinking we might be able to swing vacation in 2009, too -- because I've been looking at vacationing in Branson, Missouri. My in-laws went there a year ago, and I was surprised. The only thing I remember about Missouri is when we went there as a family when I was about 7, to visit my aunt and see the St. Louis arch.

But the arch, and my aunt, have nothing to do with Branson, and my in-laws were trying to prove to me that Branson is more than just country music. So they showed me the site for two of the hotels.

The first one was the Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing. Fancy name, right? It's a fancy hotel, too. Check it out:

But it's surprisingly affordable, and it's right in the heart of Branson, as is the sister hotel my in-laws showed me next, the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel.

So they've got nice hotels. Big deal, I said, because lots of cities have nice hotels. But the in-laws weren't done; I think they might have been retained by the Branson people, because they pointed out that both of those hotels had more going for them than just being nice. They have boutiques, a river walk, and "town square" kind of thing where there's a water fountain with a fire/light display.

That was my weakness: I'm a sucker for fountains that light on fire. But I've still got to sell it to Sweetie and the kids if I'm going to convince the family to change the longstanding every-other-year rule, as I pointed out to the in-laws.

That's when they pointed out the things that Branson has going on - the Ice Carving competition, live entertainment at all kinds of theaters, golf courses for Middle, museums for me, theme parks for The Boy and the Babies!, and shopping for Sweetie and Middle...

By which point, they'd sold me. So I retained them to sell the rest of the family, too-- which they've started to do by frequently referencing the "Winter Escape Package" deal that's being offered.

So with a little luck, and a lot of sales-pitching from the in-laws, I'll be headed to Branson this year!


Monday, January 05, 2009

I know it's just peanut butter and jelly in the same jar, but it SEEMS different. 80 down, 9,268 to go.

So much for civilization. I've been home 44 minutes, and there've already been three time outs -- and I've passed on the opportunity to give them two other time-outs because I didn't want to interrupt the Goober-on-bagel sandwich I was having for dessert.

But there's 360 days left in 2009, so maybe Sweetie and I will win yet.

Song 80: Whip It, by Devo.

Down... to go: All the songs on my iPod. And stories from a 40-year-old who eats Goober sandwiches. Song 79 here.

Sweetie will probably make me share.

Kids today have it supereasy. And supercool. Just look at the difference in their toys versus the toys I had.

When I was little, we had building toys like Tinkertoys and Lincoln logs. Tinkertoys were next to useless: those little round connectors would never hold the wooden rods, and what could you build? A Tyrannosaurus Rex looked just like a robot, and both of them looked sort of like an Edsel made out of toothpicks. Lincoln logs were worse: the only thing you could build with Lincoln logs were log cabins, and who wanted to build a log cabin? Especially when it was a log cabin with a toothpick Edsel/Tyrannosaurus Rex parked in the front yard.

But, now, the building toys can actually BUILD things. Like these toys from Mega: they're called "Magna-Bones," and they actually look like what they're supposed to look like, which is this:

Now, that's a dinosaur! Nothing Edsel-y about that. There's all kinds of other toys at the Mega site, too, like the Smart Builders toys: musical toys, toys that can drive, the whole works. I bet Mr F and Mr Bunches will love all of them... just as soon as I get done playing with them myself.

Vacations, Table of Contents

1.The first rule of Vacations is "Don't Let Chicago Rush Hour Traffic Hear You Say Its Name." 


The Year of Civilization Begins

It is time, Sweetie and I have decided, to Civilize the Babies!

They don't want to be civilized, and they are fighting it tooth and nail, but we made the decision: they are to be Civilized, without further delay.

I proposed that we do that -- Civilize them-- as we were loading them into the car on New Year's Eve to take them on our fun New Year's Eve shopping trips, a shopping trip that now included "trying to find a glass store" because we had to repair the window that Mr F had broken.

Before we decided to Civilize the Babies!, one of their hobbies, one of the main things they enjoyed in life, was throwing furniture. It began with the slide they got for their birthday. When they were not sliding on it, they began shoving the slide around. At first, we thought they were trying to slide in new locations, seeing what it was like to slide over there, or slide in the family room instead of the play room. But it wasn't that, or it wasn't entirely that, because they do move the slide around to different locations, maybe to spice things up a bit. The other night, for example, they moved the slide from the playroom all the way to the other side of the family room, doing so, I think, not just to see what it was like to slide near the couch (something that seemed not-so-fun, given that they set it up at first so that they would slide right into the couch) but also so that they could slide and watch "Baby Noah" at the same time.

"Baby Noah" is one of those "Baby Einstein" DVDs where the makers have combined footage of animals and animal-related toys with classical music and sold it to people like me, who think that it is marginally better to let your two-year-olds watch a DVD nonstop for hours if that DVD has Beethoven music in it and promises to teach the Babies! something while they watch it. "Baby Noah" has a "repeat play" feature that lets the DVD run forever, and "Baby Noah" is the current favorite of Mr F and Mr Bunches in their DVD rotation. Sweetie popped it in for them the other day, just as a break from "Bunnytown" and throwing furniture, and they were hypnotized. Mr F stood at the plastic fence that provides the security for our TV and just stared, for two consecutive playings of the DVD-- almost thirty minutes. Mr Bunches sat on the couch.

And they learned stuff. I know they learned stuff, which made it okay for them to watch that much TV, and I know they learned because they applied what they learned. There is a part in the DVD where they show a gorilla, and it makes a gorilla sound: oo oo oo. Whenever the gorilla comes on, Mr Bunches says oo oo oo just like the gorilla. And, yesterday, when they showed a monkey on TV (which was on in the background while we played "Rrrowr Monster"), Mr Bunches stopped and went oo oo oo to the monkey, too. So at only two years old, Mr Bunches is already fluent in Gorilla, and we owe that to the "Baby Noah" DVD which by my unofficial count they watched, in the past week alone, roughly 133 times.

I am not one of those parents, as you might have gathered, who thinks that TV is a bad thing. I think TV is not a bad thing at all, and I like to let the Babies! watch TV, provided that it's something that I think they should be watching, like "Bunnytown" or "Baby Einstein" or "The Critic," which I like to watch and which they seem to like, too, although they probably don't get all the jokes. They also like to watch "Robot Chicken" with me, and sometimes when Sweetie's not home we'll watch "Reno 911" together. TV helps the Babies! learn, even if sometimes they only learn how to speak "Gorilla," and even if other times all they learn is "Man, Daddy sure will find any justification, however weak, to watch his TV shows when he's supposed to be babysitting," although to be honest, I do think that it's good for them to watch Battlestar Galactica because they can learn about space and also about how Hollywood can take a perfectly good thing and wreck it. I'm assuming both of those areas of knowledge -- space, and Hollywood-distrusting -- will be critical to their survival in the future.

Besides, it's not like all they do is watch TV, and it's not like I just sit and ignore them when I watch TV. We play while the TV is on, all sorts of games, like the newest one that Mr Bunches loves, which is "Rrrowr Monster." In "Rrrowr Monster," I have to crawl on my hands and knees around the playroom and whenever I see Mr Bunches, I have to dive and him and growl Rrrowr and then if I catch him, I tickle him or drop him on the couch. Mr Bunches loves Rrrowr Monster, loves it so much that he'll bully people into playing it, coming and grabbing their hands and pulling them until they are near the slide and playset in the playroom, and then if the person still isn't down on hands and knees and growling, he'll shove them until they do that. Mr Bunches gets superexcited by Rrrowr Monster, so excited that he puked the other day from laughing too hard when I lunged at him, and even then he wanted to go on playing it, but Sweetie has a strict "Once you puke the game is over" Rule, so we had to move on to other games, like The Tackle Game, or moving the slide around and then sliding down it while Daddy hums the Last of the Mohicans theme.

So in some way, I guess, it's partially maybe a little my fault that the Babies! are not civilized, because most of the games I play with them are not Civilized games. It's hard to spend 99% of your time playing "Cloverfield" and "Dr. Slider" and "The Tackle Game" and "Tickle Bugs" and "Rockets To The Moon" (where I hold them and toss them up in the air) and "SuperSpinning" and the rest, and then expect them to behave like perfect angels the rest of the time. But it's hard, too, for me to understand how they go from playing all those games to enjoying throwing furniture around, which is the stage they progressed to over the Christmas holidays.

Like I said, it began with the slide, which they at first would just push around. They learned, then, that the slide would tip over, so they began doing that, and they spent their time tipping it over and standing it up and tipping it over again and knocking it into walls, and we'd lean in and make sure that they at least weren't tipping it over on each other's heads, and let them play. What harm could come of that? we thought.

Then they moved on from the slide to other pieces of furniture. They began taking the cushions off of the chairs and couches. Then they would tip over the hassock, over and over, knocking that around.

Things were worse on the middle level. They knocked over the piano bench, for no reason. They'd tip over the end table. And then they found the kitchen chairs, which were simple to tip over and which made a satisfying thump and which they could then stand up and tip over again, and again and again.

This all took place in about two months, and we didn't know what to do. Or, to be more accurate, we knew what to do-- stop them from tipping over furniture-- but we didn't want to do it because stopping them from tipping over furniture is a lot of work, and we already have a lot of work to do in the house. When there's two teenagers and two two-year-olds and Sweetie, it's not difficult to find work to do in the house, work that ranges from the usual like cooking dinner and doing laundry and getting the paper to the less-usual, like encouraging The Boy not to store moldy bread in his room.

The Boy stores moldy bread in his room whenever he can get away with it, which is a lot, because I've been training myself to not look at The Boy's room, trying to avoid looking at it no matter what, because if I look at the room, I will have to see that it is a disaster, and if I see it's a disaster, I'll get all depressed about the resale value of our house and I'll think that I'm destined to live in this house forever and never move because we'll never be able to resell it because there's no way The Boy's room will ever be clean again, and there's no way we'll ever be able to get the slightly-onion-y smell out of his room.

The slightly-onion-y smell comes from The Boy's football gear, which for some reason smells more and more like onions as the football season goes on, so that by the time his team made the playoffs this past year, walking by his room was kind of like walking by an onion farm. It's not that the uniform isn't clean; Sweetie washes it all the time, but the onion smell continues to grow, like he's using onion-scented deodorant or something.

So the smell of moldy bread at least combats the lingering onion scent, but that's not a good thing. The Boy got a job working at a bread-and-sandwich shop, and when he closes, he's allowed to bring home the leftover bread. That's not as good a deal as it sounds, because the leftover bread is all the stuff that people didn't want to buy, so it's not like he's bringing home leftover "Everything Bagels" and muffins and sourdough bread. He brings home a lot of baguettes -- baguettes are the most overrated bread ever-- and a lot of rye bread.

It's also not as good a deal as it sounds because The Boy claims that the bread is for his football team, and that he's supposed to take it to the team's weight room so that the football players can eat bread in between lifting weights. I'm skeptical of that claim, because the bread, as far as I can tell, never makes it to the weight room, and also because the bread spends a lot of time first in The Boy's car, and then in The Boy's room, making it not-so-edible. The life cycle of the bread is this:

1. Get brought home by The Boy in a giant plastic bag in the back seat of his car, next to the backpack that has his homework in it (but not the homework that he needs for that night, which is why he has to go back to school later on and get the homework that he needs for that night, and NO, they do not have a textbook for their math class, well, okay, they do but he didn't bring it home because the teacher doesn't want them to read the textbook, they're just supposed to do the worksheet.)

2. Sit in the unsealed giant plastic bag for two or three days (or weeks) in the backseat of The Boy's car because he had to carry in his backpack and his coat and also Mom wanted him to get the mail so how is he supposed to carry in the bread, too, and it's not like it goes bad or anything.

3. Get brought in, finally, to be set on the counter in the still-unsealed giant plastic bag, where the bread will sit through three sarcastic hints and a command: "Hey, I didn't know we were storing bread on the counter," "I wonder if there's a better place to store stale bread than the counter," "It sure would be nice if I could make dinner but I've got 43 pounds of stale bread just sitting on the counter," and finally "Get down here and put the bread away!"

4. Take portions of the bread, bread that nobody in the house now wants to eat, and put them into loosely-wrapped plastic bags that when noticed by me will prompt the umpteenth lecture on "Why Air Is Bad For Stored Food & The Importance Of Closing Bags And Containers," a lecture which will be ignored for the umpteenth time. Leave the rest in the giant open plastic bag.

5. Sit in the loosely-wrapped bags in the freezer until I throw them out, and sit in the opened giant plastic bag in The Boy's room until forced to take it to the garage, where it will sit for several more weeks until finally being stuffed into a garbage can by me, because it wouldn't fit in the garbage can when The Boy took it out because there wasn't any room in the garbage can because nobody around here knows how to take garbage out and why doesn't Middle ever have any chores to do anyway because he just wants to finish watching the basketball game and Geez, doesn't anyone ever leave him alone?

So with all of that, it's understandable that Sweetie and I might, when the Babies! decide to take up chair-throwing as a hobby, think it's just a phase, they'll outgrow it, which is what we say about everything they do that we're just too tired to correct right now:

It's just a phase, eventually he'll leave his diaper on.

It's just a phase. Eventually, they'll eat something besides Doritos.

It's just a phase. Eventually, they'll stop trying to run away anytime they're in Shopko.

It's just a phase. Eventually, we'll figure out what happened to the other cat.

But like all good things, or all things that aren't good but parents have opted to ignore them, that phase had to come to an end, and the end was when Mr F broke a window on New Year's Eve.

I have only myself to blame, a fact which doesn't keep me from secretly blaming Sweetie. Officially, I have only myself to blame because I was supposed to be cleaning up after breakfast while Sweetie got ready to go grocery shopping with me and the Babies!. Mr F was hanging around, and I thought he might still be hungry. So I put him on a chair and gave him some cereal on the table to munch on while I started Step One of clean-up: Putting on music. As I loaded up iTunes to play music while I cleaned, I forgot entirely about Mr F until I heard the crash of broken glass and Mr F started crying, at which point I turned around to see him standing on the chair in front of the broken window the chair was leaning against.

So you can see how that's really Sweetie's fault: if she hadn't insisted on bathing and leaving me in charge while she did so, she would have been the one in the room when Mr F broke the window. I hope she's learned her lesson.

Mr F had, as far as I can reconstruct, thrown the chair against the window and then when he broke the glass, climbed up on top of it and cut his finger, so we had to clean off his finger and clean up the glass and take the window pane out and put a blanket up over the window (classy!) and load the broken window pane and the Babies! (including a still-upset Mr F) into the car and find a glass shop before we even went grocery shopping, all of which ate up the all-too-short time that we had planned to use to relax on New Year's Eve.

The glass shop said it would take a week to get the pane of glass to install in the window -- a claim about which Sweetie had this to say: "Don't they have glass there? They're a glass store!" But apparently they didn't have this glass, or enough of this glass, or something, or they just didn't feel like doing much on New Year's Eve, so they measured the pane and then told us to take the remainder back home until they called.

We were left with the pane of the window put in place and then cardboarded over and then draped with a blanket which I duct-taped to the frame because there are still little pieces of glass in it, creating a lumpy green window treatment that almost, but not entirely, lets all of the cold air into the house and is giving our furnace workout.

That whole adventure led us to decide that it was time the Babies! became Civilized: No more furniture throwing, we decided, and no more of this just a phase stuff. We implemented our decision right away, outlining what activities were now off-limits for Mr F and Mr Bunches. The new rules are:

No throwing furniture.

No touching the TV.

Leave your pants on.

The penalties for violating those rules are an immediate time-out, escalating in time. The first time-out of the day is 30 seconds. The next, 60 seconds, and up by 30 seconds each time they break one of the rules.

Yesterday, Mr F made it all the way up to 8 1/2 minutes -- and that was after I'd given him two freebies, and also after we decided that "Leave your pants on" could be an optional rule, so Mr F was allowed to walk around for a while without any pants, and he still was up to nearly nine minutes in time outs.

That length of a time-out is really hard to enforce, too; the Babies! are only two, so it's not like they'll just sit somewhere for any length of time. To give them a time-out, I have to take them and sit them in the time-out rocking chair and hold them, hold them while they struggle and squirm and complain and try to escape and cry and once Mr F hit me. I try to bribe them during the time out, saying "If you behave, I'll knock a minute off" but they never fall for it, they just do their time in the hardest way possible. I finished the 7 minute time-out with Mr F upside down on my lap, feet in my face while he arched his back and yelled at me.

At least I'm trying, though. Sweetie had to give Mr F a thirty-second time out, and while she swears she counted to thirty, I'm skeptical because I was at the top of the stairs when I heard her say "That's it, it's a time out" and I went downstairs to help and by the time I got to the bottom of the stairs, the time out was done... and we only have four stairs.

We're going to keep working on it, though. 2009 is the Year The Babies! Get Civilized, and we're going to win this round, no matter how many time-outs we have to give them. If I have to spend the entire year holding them in the time-0ut rocker, I'll do it.

And if that doesn't work, I'll make them smell The Boy's room.


Question of the Day: 25

Which would you find more weird and sort of frightening: sitting on a raft amidst a bunch of whales in the middle of the ocean, like Tom Hanks did in "Cast Away" or standing on a plain in the midst of a herd of buffalo?

I'd be way more freaked out by the whales. The ocean is spooky. Neat, but spooky. So it's probably a good thing I didn't follow my childhood dream of being an oceanographer.

Children tormented by demons. An old man accidentally killing people. Witches who live hundreds of years and escape from Hell repeatedly. An astronaut drifting through space... these and other great stories can be found only on AfterDark: The scariest things, you CAN'T imagine.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Boy is hoping that it doesn't affect me.

Yesterday, The Boy and I were discussing the economy. He wanted to know how the economy was making people spend less on Christmas presents... something that didn't personally affect him.

I explained that companies were going out of business, and people were losing their jobs, so they didn't have as much money to spend and were cutting back, and that meant that other companies were selling less, making them lay people off, and creating in general an atmosphere of worry that meant that nobody wanted to spend money because everyone was worried about their jobs.

"But that doesn't affect you," he said. I asked why and he said "Because you're a lawyer." I pointed out that, yes, it does affect me, because as people get laid off and worried about spending money, they cut back on things and those "things" include hiring lawyers.

It's true, too: even the legal profession gets hit by downturns, and law firms can lay off people or let people go like any other company. But one nice thing about the law as a job : it rebounds nicely, and there's a lot of niches out there. It's not like being a retailer. Clothes are clothes -- if you sell shirts and people don't want shirts, it's hard to switch up and sell televisions.

But lawyer and legal professionals can move into new fields more easily. I practice a few areas of law, so when one is down, the other may be up. And that keeps me more employed than others in these times.

So having a job in the legal profession can be a real boon, both in keeping employed and in getting re-employed. Just look at all the legal jobs available on one site, RealMatch. They're a job site that matches people based on their unique skills, one that uses a unique method of locating just the right person for just the right job, and they've got dozens of jobs in the legal profession: construction litigator, trusts & estates associate, even legal assistant jobs.

If you're thinking about getting into the legal profession, clicking over to RealMatch might just convince you that you're choosing the right career. If you're in the legal profession already, then RealMatch can help you find your first, or your next, job, even in these hard times.